Monday, June 13, 2011

Lannan's Secret to Success

John Lannan has had a great season so far, especially considering that last year at this time he was a week away from a trip to Syracuse for poor performance. So far he is on pace for career highs in ERA, FIP, WAR, and wins. What is most interesting is that when I have watched him pitch, he has been getting rocked - the opposing players have been hitting everything very hard. It seemed like every hit ball in the first 4 innings yesterday was a rocket shot that our suddenly stellar defense was about to track down or make a play on.

Being a big believer in stats, I went to fangraphs to try and figure out why/how Lannan has been able to put up these career numbers. But here's the thing. I couldn't figure it out.

- His K/9 is higher than his career average, but not a career high.
- His BB/9 is his highest ever.
- His BABIP is .283. His career BABIP? .283.
- His WHIP is 1.41. His career WHIP? Yep. 1.41.
- His GB% (Groundball Percentage) is a mere 0.7% below his career average.
- His BAA (Batting Average Against) is only .007 lower than his career average.

I just don't get it.

At times it seems like Lannan is working quicker on the mound, but at times he seems to be Yunesky Maya slow.

Seemingly the only three things I can find are slightly obscure, and don't fully explain his 2011 success.

- His Z-Contact% (Percentage of contact of pitches in the strike zone) is down more than 5% from his career total. Meaning, he is getting more swings and misses.

- Lannan's fastball is sitting at 89.7 MPH, 1.5 MPH higher than his career average. And even more interesting is that his fastball velocity has gotten faster each year since he debuted in 2007 with an 86.7 MPH average fastball velocity.

- I know his BABIP is right in line with his career average, but the Nationals have been played stellar defense of late, setting a new Franchise Record errorless streak.

Any of you CapBallers have any other idea why Lannan is on his way to a career year?


  1. Very interesting!

    My theory is that he has benefited greatly from having Marquis around, who is a very similar pitcher. You might have fun doing a piece comparing the two.

  2. Could the explanation be.....that there is no explanation?

    Lannan reminds me more of Hernandez than Marquis, possessed of no great "stuff" but good "command," to use nebulous phrases that Billy Beane would denigrate.

    I'm not sure he'll be able to sustain this, but then again, the statisticians can never find a reason why Livan gets men out. He throws "slop" in Boswell's words, yet he inexplicably gets enough outs to keep pitching in the majors. Maybe Lannan will do the same.

  3. Livan actually has a lot of stuff going for him. He pitches more to the edges of the strike zone than nearly any other pitcher in the MLB (behind guys like Heath Bell and Mariano Rivera) and he gets one of the widest strike zones of any pitcher for a variety of reasons. Livo has plenty to explain his success, along with pretty decent FIPs. Lannan doesn't.